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Launches and Orbital Operations


Tyneside, UK
2022 Nov 26
Saturday, Day 330

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Vostochny Launch 2022 October

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Background

A planned launch on October 22 is set to orbit four satellites - three Gonets-M and a single example of a new vehicle called Skif-D. Gonets is an ongoing programme of store/dump messaging satellites. Skif is a demonstrator for a constellation of satellites to deliver internet connectivity from orbit.

Past Gonets launches have been to 1500 kilometres orbits at 82°.5 inclination. Skif is reported to be headed for 8000 kilometres altitude.



Launch Information

Actual detail of the launch is sparse. We know the launch vehicle - Soyuz 2 1B + Fregat and we know the satellite names. The temptation is to assume that it is aimed at the standard Gonets 82°.5 inclination but there is no confirmation of that from Russia. Recently published navigation warnings for aircraft and shipping give some clues that it might be a different scenario.


Navigation Warnings - Far East

Russia has issued three NOTAMs for air route closures in the far east and the far north of the country. Their timings coincide with the known launch time of this mission. They cover three launch opportunities on successive days but they times creep earlier by a few minutes on each of those days. It perhaps rules out the final orbit being sun synchronous orbit where the launch time would be expected to repeat from day to day.

Fitting an orbit to them suggests an inclination of about 101° which in turn points to a height of about 1500 kilometres. The inclination/height combination is just right for a sun-sychronous orbit but the daily 'creep' suggests an inclination of about 90° with the orbit ascending node designed to meet a fixed value of Right Ascension.

A 90° inclination orbit misses the Russian NOTAM zones. However, there is a possible explanation if the Soyuz pursues a 'dog leg' ascent with the first and second stage (strap-ons and core vehicle) falling in the NOTAM areas. The third stage would then steer the ground track round to the north and increase the inclination. The dog-leg may be necessary to avoid the early-stage flight passing over sensitive or inhabited areas.


Navigation Warning - West Atlantic

A NOTAM also appeared for an area 1500-1600 kilometres off the US west coast, it was followed 24 hours later by a matching maritime warning. The NOTAM reveals that the source of the information is Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. Active times match the planned Vostochny launch, nicely tying it in

It reveals an orbit with an inclination close to 90° but the zone is actually a little further west than might be expected for a Fregat being injected into low (about 200 kilometres) orbit. This can be explained by the 'dog-leg' ascent trajectory suggested earlier.


Mission Profile

The Atlantic zone is for re-entry of the Soyuz third stage. The satellites stack will be given the final push to low orbit by the Fregat stage.

Fregat is a satellite delivery system. After reaching orbit, it will carry out necessary manoeuvres to deliver the three Gonets-M to their operational orbit, assumed to be 1500 kilometres.

Next it will take itself to 8000+ kilometres, making any required inclination change on the way, and release Skif-D.

Fregat often steers itself to re-entry after delivering its payloads. In this case, there are no obvious navigation warnings for its fall so it probably contains insufficient propellant to drop all the way back from 8000 kilometres.


Addendum

Looking back at the 2020 launch of
three Gonets and a group of Cubesats offers an alternative profile for the ascent profile. In that mission the Fregat made a whopping 15° change in inclination and lowered the orbit by 900 kilometres between its two satellite release episodes.

The same may apply here where the initial 90°-91° inclination is actually for the Skif-D release into its 6000 kilometre circular orbit. After this, a manouvre to 82°.5 inclination and reduction in height to 1500 kilometres will allow delivery of the Gonets satellites to their standard 1500 kilometre orbit.

A missing piece of the puzzle is the intended inclination for Skif-D. Without it, the two paragraphs above can only be treated as conjecture.


Published Navigation Warnings

The following three navigation warnings were issued on October 18 for areas to the north west of Vostochny and across Russia:

P8600/22 NOTAMN
Q) UUXX/QARLC/IV/NBO/E/075/540/5252N12723E134
A) UHHH UEEE B) 2210221950 C) 2210241950
D) 22 1950-2010, 23 1940-2000, 24 1930-1950
E) ATS RTE SEGMENTS CLSD:
B811 SONMO-NINON FL075-FL540,
G229 UDRIL-NINON FL095-FL540,
G494 SOVIK-BANIR FL095-FL540,
L168 LALIR-BAKAT FL265-FL540,
N620 LALIR-NALEB FL265-FL540,
N992 SOVIK-PARIS FL265-FL540,
R211 SOVIK-PARIS FL095-FL265,
W109 RILTA-KIPIN FL095-FL405,
W223 BANIR-NEBIM FL085-FL195.
F) FL075 G) FL540

P8601/22 NOTAMN
Q) UEEE/QARLC/IV/NBO/E/095/540/5544N12508E092
A) UEEE B) 2210221950 C) 2210241950
D) 22 1950-2010, 23 1940-2000, 24 1930-1950
E) ATS RTE SEGMENTS CLSD:
A333 GIMOL-LALIR FL245-FL265
A718 IDMIR-LALIR FL245-FL540
L168 GIMOL-LALIR FL265-FL540
N620 ARKOD-LALIR FL265-FL540
W109 OTMES-RILTA FL095-FL405.
F) FL095 G) FL540

P8602/22 NOTAMN
Q) UEEE/QARLC/IV/NBO/E/055/540/6326N12037E296
A) UEEE B) 2210221950 C) 2210242010
D) 22 1950-2030, 23 1940-2020, 24 1930-2010
E) ATS RTE SEGMENTS CLSD:
B153 VEDAL-ARTUN FL055-FL265
B830 NITEL-ODELI FL275-FL540
B953 PITIL-RUBIR FL055-FL540
B953 RUBIR-LIPKO FL095-FL540
G231 TELRO-BEKIB FL235-FL540
M131 ARTUN-VEDAL FL265-FL540
T479 NIRBA-GANPA FL265-FL540
W117 RONKU-OTMER FL055-FL265
W19 ODELI-NIPEK FL065-FL405.
F) FL055 G) FL540

On the same date, this NOTAM was published for the western Atlantic:

A1156/22 NOTAMN
Q) KZWY/QXXXX////000/999/
A) KZWY
B) 2210221930
C) 2210252100
D) DLY 1930-2100
E) DUE TO A MIL STNR ALT RESERVATION, ROSCOSMOS, WI THE NEW YORK
OCEANIC CTA/FIR, NEW YORK OCEANIC WILL NOT ACCEPT IFR FLIGHT WI AN
AREA DEFINED AS 3507N 6031W, 3503N 5922W, 2320N 6020W, 2325N 6124W
TO POINT OF ORIGIN.
F) SFC
G) UNL


Page Date - 2022 Oct 20
Diagram updated to include 'dog-leg' - 2022 Oct 21
Addendum - 2022 Oct 22

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